Daily Archives: April 26, 2010

“Mary-Mandering” – Redistricting by courts in Colorado gets boost from Colorado Legislature, updating political lexicon

No man’s life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session.” — Mark Twain (1866)

The Colorado Legislature is still in session – so our lives, liberty, and property (and our Constitution) remain under threat.  Many of the worst threats against our constitutional rights are being aided and abetted by the Colorado Supreme Court – the latest threat is an attempt by the Colorado legislature to remove some of the rules restricting the power of the courts to draw up our legislative boundaries whichever way they want (not that they’ve been much constrained by the laws on the books, anyway).  As a recent Denver Post editorial (“What are Colorado Democrats up to?“) points out:

Here we are, in the waning weeks of the state legislative session, and Democratic leadership has introduced a bill that would whack a big part of congressional redistricting law from the books.

The bill (HB10-1408 Repeal Congressional Districting Criteria) would remove from state law several factors designed to ensure fair and impartial review by courts concerning legislative district boundaries.  As another Denver Post article explains,

Redistricting is an intrinsically partisan process, and while most citizens may not take notice of it, the exercise is deeply important to political parties, as it can greatly influence which one has the upper hand in an election.

Weissmann’s bill would eliminate language in the law that says courts, in determining whether congressional districts have been drawn fairly, cannot consider “non-neutral” factors that include “political party registration, political party election performance and other factors that invite the court to speculate about the outcome of an election.”

The bill also would eliminate requirements that a redistricting plan avoid splitting cities or counties or “communities of interest” that can include ethnic, economic or geographic groups.

Finally, the bill also would clip language that calls for district lines to be as compact as possible.

Numerous commentators have pointed out that battles over legislative redistricting – drawing up those lines on a map that will determine how we are represented in Congress and in the state legislature – and the shenanigans that often accompany those battles, are nothing new (and hardly restricted to any particular political party).  Indeed, the term “gerrymandering” (used to describe such shenanigans, and the twisted boundaries and odd-shaped districts that result) is just shy of 200 years old last month:

Gerrymandering is a form of boundary delimitation (redistricting) in which electoral district or constituency boundaries are deliberately modified for electoral purposes, thereby producing a contorted or unusual shape. The resulting district is known as a gerrymander; however, that word can also refer to the process.

Gerrymandering may be used to achieve desired electoral results for a particular party, or may be used to help or hinder a particular group of constituents, such as a political, racial, linguistic, religious or class group.

The term first appeared in the Boston Centinel on March 26, 1812.  (Wikipedia article)

What is new (or relatively new – since the Colorado Supreme Court also played these shenanigans during the last redistricting battles in Colorado following the 2000 Census) about this approach is the use of the courts to advance a particular political agenda and deliberately modify legislative boundaries for electoral purposes.

Given the prominent role of Colorado Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey in advancing the practice – going so far as to declare the courts “part of the General Assembly” (Salazar v. Davidson, 2003) in order to get around the Colorado constitutional requirement that the Legislature (and no other branch) should draw up our Congressional districts – we propose that the political lexicon should be updated to reflect this 21st Century innovation, and coin the term “Mary-mandering” to describe the process.

Don’t let the courts “Mary-mander” away your rights to fair representation – exercise your right to vote “NO” this November on the 4 ‘unjust justices’ of the Colorado Supreme Court’s “Mullarkey Majority” (Justices Michael Bender, Alex Martinez, Nancy Rice, and Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey) who need YOUR approval to continue taking away your constitutional rights: your right to vote on tax increases, your right to defend your home or business from against eminent domain abuse,  your right to fair representation in government, and your right to enjoy the benefits of the rule of law, instead of suffering under rule by activist, agenda-driven “justices.”  Support Clear The Bench Colorado with your comments (Sound Off!) and your contributions – and vote “NO” on retaining these unjust justices on the bench for another 10-year term!